Monday, 13 June 2022

Čović Set to Support Brussels Document Provided 2 Changes Are Added

ZAGREB, 13 June 2022 - The leader of the Bosnian Croat HDZ party, Dragan Čović, has announced that he will support the document which was adopted by representatives of 12 Bosnian political parties in Brussels on Sunday, provided that two amendments were added to the text.

A source close to Čović said on Monday that he would support the document today, with an additional "two minor changes that should not be problematic." The changes will give an additional value to the text, the source said.

The leaders of 12 Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) and Serb parties endorsed the document in Brussels on Sunday, committing to the electoral law reform and a limited amendment to the Constitution within six months since the formation of authorities at all levels.

European Council President Charles Michel had arranged for 15 parliamentary parties from Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet in Brussels on Sunday. In attendance were representatives of 12 parties who endorsed the document "Political agreement on principles for ensuring a functional Bosnia and Herzegovina that advances on the European path".

Milan Šarović of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) and Fahrudin Radončić of the Bosniak SBB parties did not travel to Brussels, while Čović did but did not show up at the meeting and later explained that he did not want to give legitimacy and promote the two Bosniak members of the country's presidency and that he had learned just a few days before the meeting that it would be held in "a strange format".

On Monday the Bosnian Croat leader announced his support for the document.

The preamble reads among other things that the signatories are committed to "upholding the principle of the rule of law and conduct free and democratic elections as well as develop democratic institutions at all levels of government/authority."

Čović is proposing that this should be extended by adding "in compliance with the agreement on the implementation of the rulings of the European Court for Human Rights, signed in Brussels on 1 October 2013, and in line with the political agreement on amending the electoral law, signed in Mostar on 17 June 2020."

Čović and the leader of the Bosniak SDA party, Bakir Izetbegović signed a political agreement in Mostar on 17 June 2020 regulating the model of election of councillors in that southern city and amending the city statute.

The 17 June 2020 political agreement made it possible for elections to be held in Mostar for the first time since 2008.

The signatories of that agreement also undertook to make sure that the amendments to the Bosnia and Herzegovina electoral law would be based on "the legitimate election and legitimate political representation" of the constituent peoples and citizens at all administrative and political levels, in the country's presidency and in the houses of people in the state and the federation's parliaments.

Amending paragraph 11

Čović also demands the amending of paragraph 11 of the Brussels document which now reads that the parties are committed to adopting, within six months from the formation of the authorities at all levels, "electoral reforms and those limited constitutional reforms needed to ensure full compliance with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court, Venice Commission recommendations and OSCE/ODIHR and GRECO recommendations."

The proposed amendment says that the electoral reforms that will ensure the implementation of the election results in connection with the Houses of People should be urgently adopted in line with the agreements cited in the preamble, which is in line with the 1 October 2013 Brussels agreement on the ECHR rulings' implementation and the 2020 Mostar political agreement.

On Sunday evening, Čović raised the question of how it would be possible to establish the authorities after the crucial provision of the electoral law was declared null and void.

"However, it is a crucial issue how one can establish the authorities if you do not have crucial provisions already declared null and void by the Constitutional Court," said Čović.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court invalidated a provision under which the national clubs in the House of Peoples of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina must include at least one representative of the respective people from each canton. This provision enabled the Bosniak parties from the Federation's cantons in which there were actually no Croats to get politicians who wrongfully declared themselves as Croats to become the delegates on behalf of the non-existent Croat communities and thus automatically be added to the national club of the Croats.

Each of the three national clubs (the Croat, the Serb, and the Bosniak), has 17 members, and the Croat club usually could not reach agreement and decisions because a two-thirds majority vote is required and the Bosniaks managed to add 6 purported Croat delegates to that club.

 Meeting's participants say they have not signed the document but endorsed it

 Participants in the Brussels meeting said in Sarajevo on Monday that they had not signed the document but only endorsed the paper published by European Council president.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 20 May 2022

Čović: It Would Be Wrong for HNS BiH to Choose Between Milanović or Plenković

ZAGREB, 20 May 2022 - Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatian National Council (HNS) leader Dragan Čović said on Friday it would be a "catastrophic mistake" for Croat politicians in BiH to choose between Prime Minister Andrej Plenković or President Zoran Milanović, as both advocates the better status of local Croats.

"It would be a catastrophic mistake for representatives of the Croat people in BiH to take that course in pursuing their policy," Čović said.

Being the leader of the HDZ BiH party I could also afford that luxury to connect with the interests of the president of the HDZ in Croatia, which is logical, he told a press conference in Mostar when asked with whom the HNS BiH would side, President Milanović or Prime Minister Plenković.

Earlier this week President Milanović called for Croat parties in BiH to state whether they support his stance to block Finland and Sweden's application to NATO until the election law in BiH is amended whereas Prime Minister Plenković considers that approach is mere exhibitionism and is damaging to Croatia and Croats in BiH.

The presidents of three minor Croat parties, and members of the HNS BiH, supported Milanović's stance.

Čović explained that it is necessary to preserve the unity within HNS BiH, adding that he appreciates Milanović.

"As the president of HNS BiH, it is necessary to take into account all the elements, valuing everything that Croatia's President is doing, whose advocacy corresponds to everything we are seeking here as the Croat people. There is no doubt that sounds good to our people in Croatia and BiH because it has mobilized public opinion to an enviable degree so they can feel this problem," he added.

According to Čović, Prime Minister Plenković has managed to promote the importance of amending the election law in the world and for the legitimate representation and equality of Croats in BiH.

He said that HNS BiH will not influence Croatia's foreign policy, referring to Croatia's position on Finland and Sweden's NATO application.

"It is our opinion that we cannot influence Croatia's foreign policy. According to the Constitution, its foreign policy is co-defined by the president and prime minister. We will agree to whatever they agree to on the foreign policy plan," he said.

Čović added that he would meet with European Council President Charles Michel in Sarajevo on Saturday, adding that the visit would not have occurred without Prime Minister Plenković's lobbying.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Čović Calls On Plenković And Milanović To Advocate For Bosnia Croats In EU And NATO

ZAGREB, 5 May 2022 - The president of the Croatian National Council of BiH, Dragan Čović, on Thursday called on Croatia's leaders, while there is still time, to warn the EU and NATO of the threat of the "gross and organised" outvoting of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina at October's general elections.

Čović met separately on Wednesday with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and President Zoran Milanović. 

Čović appealed to the two officials to additionally raise the issue and warn of the gross and organised outvoting of the Croat people in BiH within the framework of the international associations they belong to - the EU, NATO, and all others - while there is still time for that, HNS BiH said in a press release.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's Central Electoral Commission called general elections for 2 October despite local Croat parties and Zagreb warning that based on the incumbent rules, the more numerous Bosniak people will once again outvote the Croats.

In the past three elections, Bosniak voters elected Željko Komišić as the Croat member of the country's presidency. Bosniak parties have announced that Bosniak voters will elect 6 of the 17 Croat delegates in the Upper House of the Federation entity parliament, which would be sufficient to exclude Croats from the government in that entity and at the state level.

Čović thanked Plenković and the Croatian government for their contribution to efforts to guarantee legitimate representation of the constituent peoples and for advocatingr the equality of Croats and for BiH's European path.

With regard to the meeting with Milanović, HNS BiH said that the need for an urgent agreement on election reforms was underscored and that all Croatian institutions will insist on that.

"Legitimate representation of the constituent peoples must be ensured but also the functionality of institutions in BiH," HNS BiH said in the press release.


For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Čović: Demand to Abolish House of Peoples Powers Violates Dayton Agreement

ZAGREB, 23 March 2022 - The leader of the Bosnian Croat HDZ BiH party, Dragan Čović, has described the demand by the leading Bosniak SDA party to abolish the powers of the upper house of parliament of the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity, as an attempt at toppling the Dayton peace agreement.

Čović wrote a letter to EU officials Ursula von der Leyen, Josep Borrell and Charles Michel, Croatia's President Zoran Milanović, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, as well as to Western diplomats to inform them about the HDZ-SDA talks that ended inconclusively on Sunday.

He said that the talks failed because the SDA made the electoral reform conditional on abolishing the legislative role of the House of Peoples, adding that such moves would lead to the Federation entity becoming a Bosniak statelet.

"As a representative of the policies pursued by the Croatian people, I underline that abolishing the legislative powers of the House of Peoples of the Parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, reducing it to the role of protector of vital national interests and equating it with the Chamber of Peoples in Republika Srpska is a gross violation of the Washington and Dayton agreements and a serious threat to peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina", Čović wrote. 

The House of Peoples of the Federation Parliament is ethnic-based and allows each of the three constituent peoples to participate in decision making and adoption of laws, and to choose executive bodies. On the other hand, in Republika Srpska, the Serb entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croats and Bosniaks cannot influence decisions taken by the majority Serb authorities, because the upper house of the Serb entity parliament has been completely disempowered. By redefining the upper house of the Bosniak-Croat entity parliament, Bosniaks who have four times the number of representative might exert full dominance over the Croats.

Čović said that this demand was a dangerous act of hostility aimed at reducing the Croats as a constituent people to the status of a national minority. He recalled the conclusions of a recent extraordinary meeting of the Croatian National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina which announced that the Croats would call for the territorial reorganisation of the country if their disenfranchisement continued.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Croat Deputies in BiH Call for Urgent Investigation into Threats Against Officials

ZAGREB, 23 March 2022 - The Croat parliamentary group in the House of Peoples of the Parliament of the BiH Federation entity on Wednesday harshly condemned death threats sent to HDZ BiH officials Dragan Čović and Ivo Tadić, calling for an urgent investigation and punishment of those responsible.

The death threats against Čović and Tadić, who is at the helm of the HDZ branch in Zenica-Doboj Canton and is also the whip for the Croat parliamentary group in the House of Peoples of the BiH Federation Parliament, were published on Tuesday in a Facebook post.

The Croat caucus underscored that the police and judicial bodies need to treat this as a very serious case because Tadić was exposed to similar threats in 2011, when an explosive device was planted in his car.

The HDZ BiH believes the threats are due to the failed negotiations on election reform. After the last round of negotiations failed, Čović and the leader of the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Bakir Izetbegović, exchanged some sharp accusations, blaming each other for the blockade and obstruction of the reform.

Čović told reporters on Tuesday that he had been exposed to threats for years, adding that he would not be intimidated.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Negotiations on Bosnia Electoral Law Amendment Fail

ZAGREB, 20 March 2022 - The latest round of the negotiations on amending Bosnia and Herzegovina's electoral law, which was held in Sarajevo on Sunday, ended inconclusively, with Bosnia Croat leader Dragan Čović saying that "there are absolutely no conditions" for holding general elections in October.

Čović also accused the Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegović (of the SDA BiH party) of the failure.

Most of the participants in the negotiations which were held today under the mediation of managing director at the EU's External Action Service, Angelina Eichhorst and US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Michael Murphy, who confirmed that the round of the talks failed.

Čović said that there were no prerequisites for the general elections to be held in October, as previously planned.

"Since the very start, the SDA party has been in favour of keeping a status quo and no deal on the legislation's amendment", said Čović, adding that the behaviour of that party is "a brutal blow to the state".

"Five of the six parties participating in the negotiations actually accepted the solutions proposed by the international community, and the HDZ BiH was ready to accept all the options that would avoid the blockade of the authorities in the Croat-Bosniak Federation and appointment of office-holders", said Čović, who is at the helm of the HDZ BiH.

The SDA leader Izetbegović shunned the press.

On the other hand, the leader of the People and Justice party (NiP), Elmedin Konaković, addressed the press to inform the public that the negotiations had failed.

"The reform of the constitution or electoral law stands no chances any longer", he said, adding that it was pity that a document that could serve as a good basis for the model of the election of Bosnia and Herzegovina's presidency was discarded. Konaković said that the model had ensured all the rights to the Croats, as one of the three constituent peoples, and had also lifted restrictions for others, while the ethnic denominators would have been erased in the process of the election of the deputies in the upper house (the House of Peoples) of the state parliament.

Konaković and the SBB party leader Fahrudin Radončić agreed that such outcome of the negotiations would give the Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik a reason to gloat as the failed negotiations meant the continuation of the blockade of the state.

Eichhorst: Good set of reforms was at table

The EU mediator told the press that the negotiations had lasted nine months and eventually, a good set of draft reforms had been put on the table and that this package would have accelerated Bosnia's journey towards the European Union membership.

According to her, the stumbling block was the failure of the SDA and HDZ parties to reach agreement on the model of the election and the constitution of the House of Peoples of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Eichorst said that the parties did not agree which was a missed opportunity.

The US ambassador Murphy called on political leaders to continue searching for compromises and that the international community was willing to offer assistance. Murphy said that it was not wise to boycott the coming elections.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

FM Grlić Radman Discusses Situation in Bosnia With Čović and Zovko

ZAGREB, 8 Sept, 2021 - Croatia's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Gordan Grlić Radman, on Wednesday discussed the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the leader of the HDZ BiH party, Dragan Čović, and the vice-chair of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Željana Zovko, the ministry said in a statement.

The meeting focused on the reform of Bosnia and Herzegovina's electoral legislation "to ensure the quality and legitimate political representation of the Croats", the steps that need to be taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path towards European Union membership and how Croatia can help it in that regard.

Čović spoke of the current political situation and ethnic relations in his country and challenges to the achievement of legitimate rights for the Croats, while Zovko presented the European Parliament's activities concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of southeast Europe.

Grlić Radman reiterated that Bosnia and Herzegovina has the support of Croatia and his ministry in political demands for the legitimate representation of the Croats "so that Bosnia and Herzegovina would be functioning, stable and prosperous and would achieve its Euroatlantic ambitions more easily."

They all agreed that amendments to the election law would contribute to the stability and functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina and increase trust between the three constituent peoples and all other citizens in the country, the statement said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Dragan Čović For Euractiv: Stop Discrimination Against Minorities And Outvoting of Croats

ZAGREB, 4 May, 2021 - HDZ BiH party leader Dragan Čović on Tuesday called for amending Bosnia and Herzegovina's election law to put an end to discrimination against ethnic minorities, whose members cannot run for the country's top posts, as well as to the outvoting of Croats as the smallest constituent ethnic group.

"It is intolerable that a part of our citizenry, including Roma and Jews, cannot run as candidates for the top state institutions. Creating just and fair solutions to these challenges, including through limited constitutional change, is one of the HDZ's major priorities in the election legislation alternatives we are proposing," the leader of the biggest BiH Croat party says in a commentary published by Euractiv and forwarded to the local media.

Čović notes that this is crucial for the country's progress towards EU membership as is putting an end to the outvoting of Croats.

"It is unconstitutional that the most populous community selects and determines who will represent the smallest constituent community, yet this is what is happening to the Croats and others in Bosnia and Herzegovina...

"We must adjust and reaffirm a power-sharing system in Bosnia Herzegovina that guarantees equal rights and does not discriminate against anyone," says Čović.

"This non-election year provides a chance we cannot afford to miss, in the implementation of electoral, rule of law, and economic reforms necessary for a path forward to EU and NATO membership," says Čović.

The European Court of Human Rights has made several rulings, of which the best known is the ruling in the Sejdić-Finci case, which calls for an end to discrimination against candidates wo do not identify themselves as Bosniaks, Croats or Serbs since they cannot run or be elected to the state presidency and the parliament's upper chamber, called the House of Peoples.

In its ruling of 2016 in the Ljubić case, the BiH Constitutional Court called for changing the election law to prevent the outvoting of constituent ethnic groups in elections for ethnically-designed institutions.

This has caused disputes about changes to the election law that have been going on for several years.

In 2020, Čović and Bosniak SDA party leader Bakir Izetbegović signed two documents on the reform of the election law with the mediation of US, EU and British diplomats, the OSCE Mission and the Office of the High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One of the documents refers to ensuring conditions for local elections in Mostar and the other to changes to the election law to implement rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and enable legitimate political representation for the three constituent peoples in line with the BiH Constitutional Court ruling in the Ljubić case.

For more about Croats in BiH, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Grlić Radman: Stability Reason for Croatian BiH EU Membership Support

ZAGREB, 15 April, 2021 - Croatia wants to see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a future member of the European Union because that is the only way to ensure stability in this area, and Bosnia and Herzegovina will have all our support, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Thursday.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina is our most important neighbour, a country with which we share 1,100 kilometres of border, a country made up of two entities, three equal peoples, including Croats, and it is our constitutional and moral obligation to help Bosnia and Herzegovina on its European path," Grlić Radman said in Kreševo at the end of his two-day visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He visited the Franciscan monastery and a museum co-financed by the Croatian government, which should open soon.

"We want to help all areas of life of Croats in this place, where Croats make up more than 80% of the population, so that they would stay in this area, especially young people," Grlić Radman said.

Together with HDZ BiH party leader Dragan Čović, he visited the plants owned by the Stanić family, noting that these modern production facilities prove that it is possible to live and invest there.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.


Sunday, 13 January 2019

Croatia to Appoint New Ambassador to Bosnia

ZAGREB, January 13, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday he had not talked yet with HDZ BiH president Dragan Čović, who has been criticised for attending a Republika Srpska Day commemoration, as has Ivan Del Vechio who, because of that, was dismissed as Croatia's ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) . "I leave it up to Mr. Ćović and the HDZ BiH to comment on this," Plenković told reporters in Split.

He reiterated that Croatia had not been informed that Del Vechio would attend the commemoration in Banja Luka on January 9. He said Del Vechio should have consulted Croatia if he had a meeting in Banja Luka that had nothing to do with the commemoration. "He shouldn't have been there on that day."

Plenković recalled that Del Vechio had been Croatia's ambassador to BiH five years and had never attended Republika Srpska Day commemorations. "It's a little unusual that he ended up in such a situation at the end of his term and career. That's why he was recalled to Zagreb for consultations and we will start appointing a new ambassador to BiH very soon."

Asked what message Čović had sent by attending the commemoration, Plenković said "it's extremely important that Croatia's stance on BiH is well-meaning and friendly." He added that Croatia had been the country "which has supported BiH's European journey the most, but by ensuring the equality of the Croat people as a constituent people, of course."

Plenković said he informed the European Council twice that BiH's current election law "makes it possible to get around the Dayton/Paris agreement, which is also BiH's Constitution, bringing Croats, as the least numerous constituent people, into an unequal position because their member of the BiH Presidency is elected by members of the other people in the Federation." He was referring to Bosniaks in the Croat-Bosniak entity, called the Federation.

Aside from government formation in BiH and the continuation of its European path, it is important that the international community, primarily the European Union, help BiH "adopt a just election law under which all three constituent peoples will be equal," Plenković said.

"We would certainly prefer it if Dragan Čović, who won 155,000 votes, or 80% of the vote of the Croats in BiH who went to the polls, was a member of the BiH Presidency and if he was seeing to the vital interests of the Croatian people in BiH," he added.

More news on Croatia’s relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

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